Crucial election as Tennessee workers reject UAW representation

2014-02-19T00:00:00Z 2015-07-27T21:57:43Z Crucial election as Tennessee workers reject UAW representationGeorge F. Will Montana Standard
February 19, 2014 12:00 am  • 

WASHINGTON — This year’s most important election will not occur in November, when more than 90 million votes will be cast for governors and national legislators. The most important election, crucial to an entire region’s economic well-being and to the balance of the nation’s political competition, has already occurred.

Last week, at a Tennessee factory, workers rejected representation by the United Auto Workers union. The 712-626 vote — an 89 percent turnout — against unionizing the 3-year-old Chattanooga Volkswagen plant was a shattering defeat for the UAW, for organized labor generally, and for liberalism nationally. It was a commensurate victory for entrepreneurial federalism.

Sixty years ago, 35 percent of America’s workforce was unionized, almost entirely in the private sector. Today, 11.3 percent is unionized. About half (49.6 percent) of this minority are government workers whose union dues do much to elect their employers. UAW membership has plummeted as far and fast as Detroit has — from 1.5 million in 1979 to about 380,000 in 2012. In 2011, UAW President Bob King said, “If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long-term future for the UAW.”

For 30 years the UAW has tried and failed to unionize a “transnational” — a factory making foreign-brand vehicles — in the South. The union may never have a better chance than it had in Chattanooga. The company, whose board includes representatives of a powerful German union, feigned neutrality but actually worked in close collaboration with the UAW. The union was given access to the plant, a workroom and other facilities, while groups opposing unionization were barred.

It is commonly, and carelessly, said that Washington bailed out “the” automobile industry. Actually, government bailed out two of the three companies in one of the two U.S. auto industries — the UAW-organized one. The other industry, located in the South and elsewhere — Americans making 30 percent of the vehicles Americans purchase — did not need rescuing because it does not have UAW presence, which helped ruin General Motors, Chrysler and their headquarters city, Detroit.

UAW officials blamed last week’s failure on “outside special-interest groups,” which describes the UAW in Chattanooga. In a characteristically shrill and clumsy intervention before the voting ended, Barack Obama accused Tennessee Republicans of being “more concerned about German shareholders than American workers.” He missed the detail that the shareholders’ company favored the UAW. The UAW, too, blamed Tennessee’s Republican politicians. Well.

VW received $577 million in tax breaks and other incentives to locate in Chattanooga, so Tennessee officials surely were entitled to speak about how unionization might harm the investment already made and might diminish the likelihood of additional help. Nowadays, however, liberalism responds to its unpersuasiveness by trying to get government to silence (as with the IRS) or punish (it is the National Labor Relations Board’s turn) speech by liberalism’s critics. So, the UAW may ask the NLRB to overturn the vote because of unfair labor practices, which supposedly amount to the fact that the UAW was not the only speaker during the debate before the vote. Anti-UAW billboards noted Detroit’s current prostration, and Sen. Bob Corker called the UAW “a Detroit-based organization.” Its headquarters, Solidarity House, is in Detroit.

Soon — certainly by the end of June — the Supreme Court probably will rebuke Obama for having made recess appointments to the NLRB while the Senate was not in recess. But given his administration’s culture of breezy indifference to legality, the NLRB might tug its forelock and do as the UAW demands.  

In November, a prescient UAW organizer said the union would “probably lose” in Chattanooga if workers were granted a secret ballot election. That is, the UAW favored a “card check” faux election, whereby unionization is approved when a majority of employees, confronted individually by union organizers, sign a card. The UAW could not prevent a proper election, but with the NLRB’s permission the campaign was compressed to nine days. This minimized the time for UAW opponents to make their case.

Despite the UAW’s attempt to do for the South what it has done to Detroit, the South can continue to practice entrepreneurial federalism. Capital is mobile. It goes where it is welcomed and stays where it is well-treated, so states compete to create tax and regulatory environments conducive to job creation. Liberals call this a “race to the bottom.” Conservatives call it a race to rationality.

Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. JackO
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    JackO - February 22, 2014 4:59 am
    Docwaters: "Hi my name is Docwaters, an' I'd like to apply for work"?

    Superintendant: "What? WutchYou mean.... Work?

    Docwaters: "You know... a job... I'd like to go to work"?

    Superintendant: (chuckles) "Wutch You think this is? Tennessee? Indiana? You can't work in Montana. Don'ch You know that?"

    Docwaters: "But I need a job.... Man's gotta work... I have the RIGHT to work" !!!

    Superintendant: (sneering) "STOP! You GOT no rights !!!. This Hyere is Montana. You got no right to work in Montana. Now GET OUT of my office, fore I call the cops."

    Docwaters: "That don't make sense. How'm I sposed to make a living?"

    Superintendant: "Lookee Hyere you spud brain republican nitwit. You make a livin' Hyere in Montana the same way ever one else makes a livin'! FOOD STAMPS !!and affordable care!!! Now get out of my site. An' you better vote fer Obama next election!!! or we'll come and take yer Guns !...an' you better not start your own business on the side... We won't stand for no small businesses. You start a small business... and We'll come and take yer freedom !. Watch Yer step Docwaters. I'm reporting you to Hollywood this morning. Don't be surprised if you get a call from George Clooney and Alec Baldwin. Ohh look at that.... Your turnin white as a ghost... ya you better be scared"
  2. JackO
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    JackO - February 21, 2014 1:29 pm
    Thank God the unions and democrats are all in Detroit or the house would come down. Imagine if those Democrats were on Wall Street. Shudder.
  3. Dagtag
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    Dagtag - February 21, 2014 10:27 am
    "It wasn't the unions that ruined Detroit's tax base. That was your boys who did that."

    Good Lord JackO, do you go in weekly for re-education? You must, otherwise how would you stay in line and remain oblivious to the obvious? Detroit has been completely controlled and driven into the ground for more than fifty years by democrats, "my boys" had nothing to do with it. Granted unions aren't solely to blame, they are only the big earning collection arm of the party, the blame lies at the feet of the machine itself, not one part of if.

    Coleman Young was mayor for 20 years, he was a race baiting agitator, essentially Al Sharpton with power. Under his rule things really started to unravel. Come forward a few years and actual criminals were being elected, Kwame Kilpartick is exhibit A. While these rats were helping themselves to everything and trying to squeeze blood out aof a stone by raising taxes to cover it they encouraged the unions and liberalism in general to run free, this is what you get when your dream comes true.

    The unions crippled the big three bt demanding that workers be over compensated not only in wafes but also in way too generous retirement benefits and absolute insanity, see job banks. Anyone that thinks this was sustainable is blind and stupid.

    Meanwhile the tax base was shrinking so the genius leftists raised taxes to make up for it instead of cutting spending. Detroit had the country's highest property taxes on homes, the top commercial property tax and the second-highest industrial property tax and nobody to pay. In true leftist fasion Detroit spends $15,500 per pupil, or about 50% more than the national average. Despite this and (really because of) a strong teachers union the school system is horrible, 47% of the population is illiterate and there is a 35% dropout rate.

    Through it all the unions were hepling with the destruction. Today Detroit's government sends monthly checks (with an average value of $1,600 apiece) to some 21,000 public-sector retirees and their families. This is more than twice the number of active workers (9,700) who are currently employed by the city. And don't forget the horse shoe technician still on the city payroll, no horses but I guess it's good to be prepared.

    Detroit is what you get when every wacky liberal idea is put into action, this is what you are championing, it's insane.

  4. buttetonian
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    buttetonian - February 21, 2014 1:54 am
    So funny! But also very sad!
  5. buttetonian
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    buttetonian - February 21, 2014 1:47 am
    The Real (TRUE) Story: "Volkswagen employees may have made a huge mistake when they rejected union membership on Friday.

    Employees at VW's Chattanooga plant voted against representation by United Auto Workers, leaving the factory as the only Volkswagen plant worldwide without a formal mechanism for workers' representation.

    The German "co-determination" model mandates works councils, which connect employees to management, at all large German companies. Following the union vote, the head of Volkswagen's works council told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the automaker would hesitate to expand in the U.S. South.

    "I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the South again," said works council leader Bernd Osterloh.

    "If co-determination isn't guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor" of building another plant in the right-to-work South, Osterloh added.

    Let's hope we let the South go their own way, we're better off without them. Most of them vote against their own self-interests, anyway.
  6. buttetonian
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    buttetonian - February 21, 2014 1:42 am
    Volkswagen employees may have made a huge mistake when they rejected union membership on Friday.

    Employees at VW's Chattanooga plant voted against representation by United Auto Workers, leaving the factory as the only Volkswagen plant worldwide without a formal mechanism for workers' representation.

    The German "co-determination" model mandates works councils, which connect employees to management, at all large German companies. Following the union vote, the head of Volkswagen's works council told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the automaker would hesitate to expand in the U.S. South.

    "I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the South again," said works council leader Bernd Osterloh.

    "If co-determination isn't guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor" of building another plant in the right-to-work South, Osterloh added. TBC
  7. JackO
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    JackO - February 20, 2014 8:56 pm
    Every large Municipal government has unions. You lost that Detroit argument the moment you mentioned the word unions. It wasn't the unions that ruined Detroit's tax base. That was your boys who did that.

    The issue here in this article isn't jobs... it's collective bargaining. You don't want employees to have collective bargaining. I do. We disagree, mostly because you're wrong, and you value money over people every time.... also because you make up facts. You curve the space around the truth, like a black hole. That lie you repeat about unions ruining Detroit. It can't possibly be true. Every city would have been ruined long ago if it was true. The Detroit lie is a major stinker ... Dagtag.
  8. Dagtag
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    Dagtag - February 20, 2014 1:31 pm
    So the German enterprise made a sound business decision and built where costs were lower. So what? They are hiring for jobs that didn't exist before, the workers seem happy, what's your problem? You'd rather they made outrageous demands and turned Chattanooga into another Detroit wouldn't you? Let the unions control every aspect of employment and make sure the good people of Chattanooga are paying a ferrier and a blacksmith on the city staff. Instead maybe you should try to learn something from Detroit and try not to encourage repeating the mistakes made there.
  9. Dagtag
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    Dagtag - February 20, 2014 12:18 pm
    "Those Volkswagen wages look good compared to WalMart. But... "

    But the collectivists on the extreme left are never happy. You'd rather complain about not getting enough than to actually take the job work hard and make more.
  10. JackO
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    JackO - February 20, 2014 6:58 am
    A customary international wage comparison is the manufacturing sector. According to the 2012-13 International Labor Organization Report, for Manufacturing Jobs (a cast of superior comparable wages), the United States of America ranked 11th, ahead of Argentina and behind the Netherlands. It is important to note that manufacturing is a relatively high paying sector, and that across all labor sectors in the United States, the gap between productivity and wages widened dramatically after 1980. Productivity increased. Real wages fell. In the US, workers have been more productive than ever, while their buying power is falling. In the USA, productivity has increased 85 percent since 1980. Wages in selected growth sectors increased 35 percent. The gap between productivity and income hilights the loss of buying power if the US middle class.

    During the 150 years preceding 1980 this gap between productivity and earnings never widened, even during the Great Depression, when prices fell to compensate wage loss. The gap appeared in 1980 and has widened since.. The buying power of American families fell steadily. People worked longer hours for less pay. Women and Immigrants entered the workforce in larger numbers. Automation replaced workers. Unions were dismantled. People borrowed to cope, and interest rates on credit devoured even more of their income.

    Wealthy families were immune to these changes. Their buying power increased.

    Remember that Volkswagen came to the US to take advantage of the weakened position of American workers. Those Volkswagen wages look good compared to WalMart. But... shun those people who wave the American flag over the Volkswagen enterprises, claiming victory for superior American economic market strategies. Volkswagen, the German manufacturer, is encouraging (actively promoting) the effort to establish an official voice for employees in the workplace. American conservatives take the opposite approach, encouraging working people to refuse to have organized employees. After all, farm animals shouldn't have a say. It warn't right. 'twud be unnatural.
  11. JackO
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    JackO - February 20, 2014 2:47 am
    That's a GERMAN enterprise paying those wages. They came here to take advantage of the depressed American labor costs. That's NOT an American enterprise paying those wages and benefits. THAT"S MY POINT DAGTAG.... SORRY MUST YELL ... BECAUSE YOU TWISTED IT AGAIN
  12. Docwaters
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    Docwaters - February 19, 2014 9:20 pm
    Thanks for your unreconstructed ignorance of the South. Right to work states are getting these foreign plants with great paying jobs and good benefits, My Subaru was made in Indiana, a right to work state.
  13. Dagtag
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    Dagtag - February 19, 2014 6:42 pm
    "taking advantage of our third-world labor costs in the United States of America - courtesy of the Reagan revolution."

    Attaboy JackO, never let facts get in the way of a good uninformed, lock step leftist, Bolshevik rant. Apparently you don't know that the average wage in this plan is around $19.50 an hour. I know math probably isn't your strong suit so allow me, thats a little over $40,000 per year. Do you seriously consider that "third world labor costs?" I'd bet that's more than you have ever made in your life. Why would these people want to have part of their income confiscated and donated to democrat candidates? Really JackO, still blaming Reagan for your own shortcomings after all these years is more than a little pathetic. The lowest wage in the plant is for an intern, they make only (gasp) $15.00 per hour, how oh how would an intern make it on $31,000 per year?
  14. JackO
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    JackO - February 19, 2014 8:34 am
    53 percent to 47 percent.
    George Will characterizes this tiny election margin as a "Shattering Defeat", his paintbrush dishonest.

    This election took place in the a deep south where Tea Party and anti-democratic political forces have their greatest influence. The south is the hyaena den of conservative tooth and fang. The election demonstrate the tradition is alive but -- not well - unhealthy. The bulwark of southern aristoracy is tottering, while their aging male NeoCons sing in chorus - like a saloon filled with drunken Civil War Generals lamenting the Surrender of Lee: This serenade of 'mission accomplished'.

    Volkswagen, a German manufacturer sailed the Atlantic to build automobiles, taking advantage of our third-world labor costs in the United States of America - courtesy of the Reagan revolution. A situational irony, yes? - In spite of this workplace election, Volkswagen remains determined to establish a Labor Organization within ALL of its American business families. Dear me. The Grandchildren of German fascists storm the Halls of Liberty to teach Americans about the value of democratic institutions – mentoring American workers concerning the value of middle class organizations – Value your workers they tell us. Give them a voice. The middle class are the Edelweiss blossom in democracy. The noble white flower resisting cold and drought. A healthy beauty in the cold alpine.

    This is a pyrrhic victory for conservatives. Plantation owners will soon realize this election will help to reverse 50 years of calculated suppression of middle-class income by the Iron-Right. Johnny Reb edged a six percent margin over worker solidarity -- If we manage to flip 3 percent of that vote -- we get a coin-toss. When that happens, we'll toss that coin under a Confederate Flag where George Will can lead the Aristocratic South in a "Go-Team-Go" – George Will can dress up in his 50-year-old Ivy League sweater, sporting a stylish fraternity bow-tie; holding a 'Freedom Industries' megaphone, shouting at middle class Americans: "We've got you now you SOB's, and I'm not just whistling 'Dixie'"... Or maybe "We've got a commensurate victory for entrepreneurial federalism, Yes we do, How about you?"

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